I concluded this week sat in my studio, completely surrounded by cardboard. Tons. And. Tons. Of. Cardboard.
The most liberating aspect of my project with the Arts Council of Wales is that the majority of the work for Playces will utilise found, recycled, and donated cardboard... so my first task this week of sourcing materials was the easiest part because the stuff is literally everywhere! Same goes for sourcing the technology required to bring these sculptures to life. I simply needed to stock up on wires, solder, veroboard, new sensors, and order a few of these wonderful Teensy v3.2 boards:
Teensy is an Arduino based microcontroller developed by Paul Stoffregen. Having used them in countless other projects, I'm a huge fan of these boards, so I know they'll be perfect for the kind of work I'll be undertaking in Playces regarding interaction and sound control. These boards will enable me to deal with analog input readings from the variety of sensors I'll end up utilising across all 4 sculptures. They will also deal with MIDI communication to my DAW environments, making the sound workflow for this project super simple allowing for rapid results in regards the audio outputs. However, before I could get stuck into construction, I had to ensure the top-level coordination for this project was in order, including sculpture designs, the build schedule, and budget management.
1.) The Sculpture Designs.
The location themes were identified during the application for my Arts Council of Wales funding, so sketching the visuals for the new sculptures came fairly quickly. Instead, I had to spend a decent amount of time identifying the affordances of each location, which in turn would influence what interactive sensor would be used, which again, in turn, would influence what sounds could be generated from each sculpture (...its the heart of this chain reaction that makes Playces a valuable project for me to reflect on when it comes to establishing my praxis for multimodal creativity!). So, this is where I got to this week:
Design 1). The Shanty Town:
Design 2). The Factory:
Design 3). The Cave:
Design 4). The Cathedral:
The sketch for The Shanty Town merely demonstrated final additions and changes I wanted to make to my original Windmill prototype. This specific task would kick into action later in my current 5 week plan, as any changes were mainly focused on refinements for the sensors/interaction and the audio design. The other 3 sketches, for The Factory, The Cave, and The Cathedral, however, are completely new sculptures and each of which would need to undergo construction from scratch.
2.) The Build Schedule.
Now that I had a good idea of the new sculpture concepts, I broke down the types of workflows that made up each sculpture and scheduled these into a logical sequence that ensured an airtight workflow and maximum productivity during a condensed 3 week production period: Step #1 - Begin sculpture construction. Remain focused on the foundations only, with consideration on matching relative scale between all 4 sculptures (using The Shanty Town prototype as the reference).
Step #2 - Sculpture construction continued. Focus now turned to finer visual details, with consideration on when to halt visual detail to enable adequate access to areas of the sculpture that would house sensors, lights, and interactive technologies.
Step #3 - Implementation of interactive tech for the reactive and interactive sound elements, with consideration on how all 4 sculptures would work together as an ensemble in a shared physical/audio space.
Step #4 - Work on the sound design for all 4 sculptures. Working in Ableton Live, develop a scene for 4 sculptures that works well as a full arrangement (i.e. when all 4 sculptures are being explored), but also remains engaging when only one voice is active (i.e. when only 1 sculpture is being explored).
Step #5 - Test the collective elements of the sculpture (visual, interaction, sound). Refine the sensor data to allow for the best relationship between interaction and sound generation to polish the experience as much as possible before the Salon event.
Step #6 - Once sensor calibration and tweaking is complete, add final visual detail to the sculptures to clean up the final presentation of the works.
Step #7 - Set up (at least 2) of the sculptures as part of the first 3d party interactions for Playces at the UoG Salon event.
After working through this sequence for the build plan, it not only ensured that only necessary tasks were being dealt with at each step, but it considered the cause and effect of each task being executed, ensuring that no major roadblock would emerge along the way. It also fits into my initial 5 week plan breakdown, with the addition of fine-grained details and considerations. This level of scrutiny has enabled me to lock down a schedule that drastically minimises the likelihood of any major changes to the schedule during the month ahead, leaving me to fully focus on the practical work, of which is already teetering on a razor-thin timeline! Which takes us smoothly into...
3.) The Budget Management:
Last up this week was the financial planning. This was actually fairly straightforward as well. The budgeting for this project was assembled with great scrutiny when I submitted my initial application to ACW, but now that I had begun to lock down my intended workflow I just had to review this one last time to ensure it didn't need adjusting to accommodate any changes that may have sprung up post-application. But it didn't! So drawn directly from my budget spreadsheet, I was looking at: Artist Activity Costs: - 5 days sculpture construction = £1250 - 3 days interaction design and technology implementation = £750 - 2 days sound design = £500 - 2 days exhibition hosting for Art on the Hill Festival 2019 = £500
Marketing and Audience Development Costs:
- 1/2 Day Audience Marketing (public outreach, local talks) = £125
- Event promo costs = £90
- Printing costs = £85
Monitoring and Evaluation Costs: - 1 day live event monitoring = £250
- 1 Day project evaluation and completion form = £250
Capital Equipment Purchases: - Tech Supplies (boards, sensors, cards, etc) = £380
Accessibility Costs: - Welsh translation for exhibition media = £100 - Audio description for exhibits = £100
Project Running Costs:
- 1 day exhibition set up for AotH = £250 - Contingency = £170
This budget is intended to see the project through until November the 24th, when I'd be delivering the public-facing exhibition of Playces at Art on the Hill Festival in Newport. So 80% of the days in this budget breakdown are applicable to my 5 week plan for my postgrad focuses, which fits nicely into my remaining schedule in the run-up to the Salon showcase event. All in all, this has been a fruitful week spent aligning all of the constituent parts for this project: the cardboard has been gathered, the sculptures designs are now done, the build schedule is in place, and the remaining tech supplies are now in transit and will arrive in time for the first day of week 2 in my current 5 week plan. So with that, off comes the project co-ordinator hat, and on goes the wacked-out creator hat. More to come on that front next week! But for now, consider that paperwork filed.